(1965) The Minolta SR-7 of 1962 set a photographic precedent with its built-in meter. As a result, all top-dollar SLR cameras were expected to have a CDS meter built into the camera body. Still, there was a major problem with the SR-7. The meter on the SR-7 did not see exactly what the lens saw, since it was not a "behind the lens" meter. The next step up from the SR-7 was to develop a camera with a through-the-lens (TTL) metering system. By 1965, these TTL cameras had already been developed and marketed by other camera companies, such as the Asahi Spotmatic of 1964, but they were awkward for photographers to use. First, the lenses were not physically connected to the meter and had to be stopped-down to take a meter reading. This defeated the whole purpose of having an automatic lens -- which stays open at the maximum aperture of the lens. Having to stop-down the lens not only made it difficult to see the subject, but it made it difficult to see the meter reading! The problem was that no one had developed a way for an automatic lens (one that stays open at the maximum f-stop) to "talk" to the meter and tell it what f-stop was actually set on the lens! Stopping-down the lens accomplished this, but resulted in these other problems.
Minolta developed a prototype camera of this "stop-down" genre, but thankfully it was never marketed. Dubbed the SR777, it looked much like the earlier Minolta SLR cameras. It used the Auto-Rokkor lenses and displayed metering information in the viewfinder -- when the lens was stopped down, of course. Needless to say, this was Minolta's first camera with a stop-down button -- later to be referred to as a depth-of-field (DOF) button. To resolve the dim viewfinder problem to some extent (caused by stopping-down the lens), the SR777 used tiny lamps to display the metering information! One step forward and two steps back.
Thankfully, Minolta was wise enough not to go down this photographic dead-end, and instead developed a full-aperture, meter-coupled TTL system -- the SRT101. Most other camera manufacturers got stuck in the "stop-down" rut, and this is one of the reasons why so many of them went out of business (ever hear of Petri, Miranda, and Mamiya 35mm cameras?) while Minolta is still making 35mm SLR cameras today. By making a very small adjustment to the aperture ring on their Auto-Rokkor lenses, Minolta was able to get their lenses to "talk" to the camera meter -- leaving the other camera manufacturers in the dust. So although the SR777 never went into production, it was an incredibly important camera for Minolta. Minolta was at the fork in the TTL road and chose a path based on long-term photographic goals. If it had chosen differently............................?
For a comparative look at the major features of the SR777, check out MINMAN's SLR table -- the world's most complete!
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